Dear AAS and SUS members,
There is a mental health crisis in the U.S. The isolation, fear, and trauma experienced through COVID have exacerbated this. Physicians (surgeons) are not immune to these struggles. In a culture where mental “toughness” is expected and glorified, data have shown that we are, in fact, even more vulnerable. We are not immune to depression, PTSD, substance abuse, or suicide. What we are is fearful of discussing it – for fear of reprisal, appearing weak, experiencing stigma. Not asking for help doesn’t make it go away but leads to further isolation and vulnerability.
A central theme of the 2023 Academic Surgical Congress is mental health and suicide prevention among medical professionals, particularly surgeons. During the meeting, we would like to remember our friends and colleagues who have died from suicide or mental health disease.
We plan to create a safe and quiet space at the meeting venue to honor them and to allow members an opportunity to remember and reflect.
If you would like to commemorate a colleague who died from suicide or mental health disease, we welcome your submission. You may include as much or as little information as you would like, and you can submit anonymously if preferred. We are collecting obituaries, written memories, photographs, and/or any other format you would be comfortable sharing with us to honor the lives of those lost. Other media and general reflections are welcome as well.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a number of resources and guidance on safe reflection at https://afsp.org/ive-lost-someone. If your submission has any identifying information of the deceased, we ask that you obtain permission from a representative member of the individual’s family you are honoring so that we are sure that families are aware and comfortable with sharing this submission with the AAS and SUS audience.
One goal of the ASC is to promote awareness of the issue of mental health disease and suicide among surgeons and clinicians in order to collaboratively identify opportunities for prevention and treatment. In doing so, we also hope to offer moments for healing and reflection among our AAS and SUS community. We invite anyone interested to join us, and we hope that our individual voices will give rise to a collective place of healing, hope, and cultural shift.
Finally, if you are struggling or know a friend or colleague who is, please know that there are a number of resources available, several of which we have provided here for immediate access as needed.
Carrie Cunningham, MD MPH, AAS President
Rebekah White, MD FACS, SUS President
The AAS Mental Health Task Force
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (988 or 1-800-273-TALK)
National Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 741741 (free 24/7, Confidential)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (1-800-662-HELP)
Veterans Crisis Lie (1-800-273-8255, Press #1)